cover image Caverns: 2a Novel by O.U. Levon

Caverns: 2a Novel by O.U. Levon

Ken Kesey, O. U. Levon, Robert Blucher. Penguin Books, $9.95 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-14-012208-4

Eccentric characters and entertaining incidents boost the pace of this novel but cannot camouflage the strain imposed by its author's ``split personality.'' Levon (``novel'' spelled backwards) is the collective voice of 13 writing students and their instructor, Ken Kesey ( One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest ). The hero, Charles Oswald Loach, doctor of theosophy and ex-carny, has killed a photographer who, Loach claims, threatened to publicize a hidden cave with possibly ancient wall paintings that Loach had found. In 1934, six years after the slaying, Loach is conditionally released from prison to relocate the cave and thus substantiate his story. His entourage includes two psychic sisters, a priest, journalists, an anthropologist and a fanatical Mormon. They weather a human stampede, visit the Moab Museum of Natural Curiosities and experience a seance, and breeze through a chase scene. Occasionally, episodes remain awkwardly disparate and the humor is dissipated. The cave paintings, finally seen, provide little more than a limp punch line--considerably less than the reader expects after this fractious quest. 30,000 first printing. (Jan.)